The Marketing Paradox

Every technique eventually becomes a tactic

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you have a blog, podcast, or video series, you get emails like this…

Hi {name},
I recently read/listened/watched {episode/article title} on {publication title} and {general topic} really resonated with me!
I {will now talk about myself}.

It’s easy to spot this sales tactic and templated style of asking for something, but importantly, this exact email was at one time very effective as a marketing technique.

Marketing changes all the time, and what works today won’t work tomorrow. That’s true down to your marketing voice and tone, which is dangerous because if something seems like marketing, it’s over. Even when your heart is in the right place.

The people paradox

Although we’re knowingly, constantly marketed to, we severely penalize anyone that overtly markets at us. We hate it. We shut down. We act like the company is evil for attempting marketing. It’s strange, for sure, but it means businesses need to be careful about what they say and how they say it.

(The reverse is also true, and people purposely reward really great marketing… but that’s a whole other article.)

When people first started sending emails like the example I started with, they were effective because they came across as sincere, personal, and not sales-y. The idea that a cold email would speak about something specific to a real person was novel.

Now, though, because the technique is both overused and templated, emails like this have the opposite of their intended effect. They signal that the asker is lazy, selfish, and mass mailing others (which may or may not be true, but that’s what it signals).

Objectively assessing your marketing

To stay relevant and stop ourselves from looking like marketers, we need to have empathy, be original, and be authentic. And we need to continually, objectively assess our marketing voice and tone.

Most of us have the ability to spot others marketing at us, and we mainly have to harness that. Unfortunately it’s not easy to assess our own actions, so we need a framework.


Instinctively, we know exactly how we’d react to our own marketing, if it weren’t our own. We just need practice admitting it. Every time we’re not honest, the endeavor will suffer or fail, so the stakes are high.

You can take this a step further and read your marketing copy as a busy, irritated person or as your closest competitor. See how it feels. Be objective.

This is the fastest way to prevent poor marketing, but it’s the hardest to do. Once you do identify marketing speak, you can ask yourself, “what don’t I like about this?” and “what would make me like it?”


Put simply, when we use an exact template or follow an exact technique, we’re probably making a marketing mistake. This isn’t always true, but at some point every “technique” becomes a “tactic” and completely loses value.

When you read an article with a specific marketing tip or technique, think about why it works (or worked) and how it can fit into your overall marketing plan. Then, craft something original with the same intent.


Authenticity may be the most underrated quality of successful modern businesses. We can ask ourselves, if we weren’t marketing, would we use that tone, say those words, or use that many exclamation points?(?!?!)

Everything a brand puts out should be authentic to that brand, and marketing is no exception. We often put on a “marketing voice” when we’re marketing, and there’s no reason to do that!

Always Revolving, Never Evolving¹

Marketing is tricky by nature and favors those who stay ahead of the curve. It’s literally a never-ending game where things work mostly because no one else is doing them.

That’s the paradox of marketing. The value of any great marketing drops off steeply when everyone starts doing it. As marketers, we’re at the edge of that drop, and with every campaign we choose to move up or slide down.

We can learn a lot from other marketers and their past and current successes, but we can’t just copy them. If that seems like it should go without saying, consider this a friendly reminder 😉.

¹ Yeah, that’s a 30 Foot Fall reference.